Lazio vs. Napoli, preview: let's break this unpleasant spell

Stuart Franklin

Napoli have lost their last three in all competitions, while Lazio haven't won a league game in over a month. Will something give?

Three losses in a row. That's a rather depressing sentence to have to write. And while most fans of Napoli never thought the match at Juventus was going to go particularly well, the easy-enough 3-0 victory certainly wasn't anticipated. Nor was the 1-0 fall to Parma. At home. As for getting beaten in the Champions League, well, it was obvious going to Dortmund was never going to be easy. Still, a 3-1 loss that leaves Napoli hoping for divine intervention to grab a spot in the knockout round...well, that wasn't expected, either.

So now the partenopei head to Rome with damaged egos and fallen spirits. And without Marek Hamšík. Napoli's captain has been ruled out due to the injury sustained in the Parma match, the same one that saw him miss the game at Dortmund. Of course, it'll be Goran Pandev that steps into place behind Gonzalo Higuaín. Because Napoli always do so very, very well without Marek...

In "I'm not exactly sure how to feel about this" news, Anthony Réveillère looks to get his first start in a Napoli kit. It's a sign of just how poorly Pablo Armero is doing this season that the defender, a natural right-sided player, will step in at left-back. Can Zúñiga come back now, please?

Everywhere else, it's the same questions always involved when Rafa Benítez is choosing his side (even though, thank goodness, there's no midweek match this time around). Which two of Gokhan Inler, Valon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili will start? Will it be Dries Mertens or Lorenzo Insigne on the left? Which of Miguel Britos and Federico Fernández is the lesser of the two evils that will partner Raúl Albiol? And will we be bringing in a decent vice-José Callejón? Poor Ziggy could probably use a rest every now and again.

As for Lazio, well, they're suffering worse than Napoli. Which is always nerve-wracking, as it could mean this will be the game in which they turn it around. The biancocelesti are poor on the road, having yet to win a game, but have dropped just four points at the Olimpico. That's reassuring, isn't it?

Lazio haven't won a game in over a month, when they beat Cagliari on October 27, which was their first win in a month, which means they're about due. Again, reassuring. And they managed a last gasp effort from Lorik Cana to snatch a point from Sampdoria last time out. When was the last time Napoli got a last minute goal? Sometime in the rein of Walter Mazzarri and Edinson Cavani, I'd imagine.

Miroslav Klose is ruled out of the match, despite being judged fit to play earlier in the week, after a chat with Vladimir Petković had the Lazio coach feeling it was best that the forward continue to rest. Not that Klose has been quite as terrifying this season, with injuries keeping him out and only two goals scored. It's Antonio Candreva that has the most thus far for the biancocelesti, with four. He'll start on the right of Lazio's 4-4-3, with Senad Lulić on the left, flanking Sergio Floccari up top. Yes, Floccari is still alive, having played 10 games thus far and scored exactly zero.

Projected lineups

Lazio (4-3-3): Marchetti; Konko, Ciani, Cana, Radu; Onazi, Ledesma, Hernanes; Candreva, Floccari, Lulić

Napoli (4-2-3-1): Reina; Maggio, Fernández, Albiol, Réveillère; Behrami, Inler; Callejón, Pandev, Insigne; Higuaín

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